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With Cataracts, Misinformation Seems to Abound
Date:12/27/2010

res that the lens be removed and replaced.

More than 20 million Americans age 40 and older have cataracts, and the condition is most often associated with aging. "The lens of your eye changes as you get older, just like your skin begins to look different," Bradford said.

But cataracts don't develop only in senior citizens. "The majority of cataracts are due to aging, but there are cataracts that are caused by other risk factors," said Dr. Stephen Pflugfelder, a cataract expert on the faculty at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. They include:

  • Trauma to the eye
  • Diabetes
  • Long-term steroid use
  • Long-term exposure to the ultraviolet rays contained in sunlight
  • Smoking
  • Genetics
  • Severe long-term nearsightedness

Once someone has developed cataracts, misunderstanding seems to abound regarding when they should be treated.

For starters, many seem to believe that someone with a cataract should wait for the lens to go completely white before receiving surgery. That's because they're remembering the old days, when cataract surgery was much chancier, Bradford and Pflugfelder said.

"Some older people remember the surgery when it was really invasive," Pflugfelder said. "Patients had to lie down with sandbags on either side of their heads so they couldn't move. Not so anymore."

On the other hand, some people think they must seek out treatment the minute they've been diagnosed with a cataract. But that's not right, either, the experts say.

"The presence of a cataract is not an indication to take it out," Bradford said. Eye physicians often recommend that people wait to pursue treatment until a cataract has begun to interfere with their quality of life or their ability to work.

Cataract treatment is another area fraught with misinformation. Some people think that there are eye drops that cure or treat cataracts by dissolving them or slowing their progress,
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